|The Taiko series finally hits the States--there are already, like, eight of these in Japan, or something. For this Stateside release they weighted the song list toward US pop/rock, with decidedly mixed results--some of the songs work well, but with others you'll be asking "where's the beat"?|
I should backtrack a bit. In Namco's Taiko games ("Taiko no Tatsujin" in Japan), you pound the stuffing out of a controller shaped like a drum, in time with little pogs moving from right to left along a track on screen. For bigger pogs, you have to pound the drum with both drumsticks simultaneously, and then for blue pogs you have to hit the drum rim, which causes the game to make a higher-pitched drum sound. You can choose from three or four levels of difficulty, which determine how many drum beats you'll see flying across the screen.
Taiko has a bold, heavy 2D art style, somewhat reminiscent of the art in Namco's Mr. Driller series (see entry 510). Gaggles of characters, including animated little drum creatures, cavort about the screen, inviting their friends over for a group boogie as you score better and better on a song. It is pretty nutty, so if you can't stand that sort of thing, you might as well just stop reading this now.
The nuttiness continues in a series of one or two player minigames that use drumbeats to do stuff like shooting off fireworks, eating a watermelon, or stacking dogs to grab onto a helicopter. And no, I don't think this is supposed to make sense--just pound that drum!
So, this is where we get to drumming along to various songs. Drum Master has only 31 songs, once you've unlocked them all (which you can do just by playing through all the available songs on Easy difficulty), which is pretty low by modern Taiko no Tatsujin standards. And, as I mentioned, some of them just don't feel like they're calling the beats on the song beat, exactly--or maybe the song just didn't have a great solid beat in the first place. Anyway, it's too bad. Others work better, though; particularly some of the classical ones. I've read that they slacked off a bit and that some of the drum patterns on the highest difficulty, Oni (which has to be unlocked), are the same as those on the one below it, Hard. Not that this particularly matters to me, as I'm still working on perfecting the songs on Easy difficulty--I can't even see how you can possibly hit the drum fast enough to keep up with the pogs it shoots along the screen on Hard. The game tracks your score per song and per difficulty level, so you can always retry to best your previous score.
I could probably do better if I just used a DualShock for input, but, as with most quirky music games with custom controllers, the game just wouldn't be the same without the weird input device. Oh, in Japan, it was called a "Tatacon." In the States, it comes with the Taiko Drum Master game, and you can currently get the bundle for about $30 total, which seems like quite the steal to me. I betcha this game didn't do so well over here. I suppose a lot of people didn't get past the animated intro of kids singing in Japanese.
Heck, most people probably didn't get past the whole drumming concept. The drum annoys me sometimes, since I can't always seem to hit it consistently (I'll cover that more in its own entry), but I bet it annoys my neighbors more. Muhahaha! You'd think maybe there'd be a way to hit it so that you wouldn't make a hellish racket while playing, but there really isn't as far as I can see. I'd definitely be enjoying this game more if I didn't have neighbors nearby. Stupid neighbors.
Anyway, as far as the Taiko series goes, I suspect that this entry is rather weak due to the song selection, but it's probably worth it just to get the hang of things with English instructions. It's a real shame, though, that the English voice they gave the little drum creature, who shows up and says something in a high-pitched voice every time you do something in the menus, is ear-shatteringly annoying. Really, it was giving me a headache. Shut up, stupid English-voice drum creature!
Other than that, I really like the drumming.
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"Easy mode doesn't ask a whole lot of you."
Oh drat, I forgot the most important thing. The reason this series rules because the gameplay is so simple: just bang the drum head or the drum rim when the dot shows up. Bang. This is not to say that you'll just cruise through the game on the hardest difficulty, because the succession of beats you have to rap out gets insanely fast and thick, but the simple principle remains throughout, making for a game that is easy for anyone to approach and pick up. Oh yeah, and hitting drums is fun. AND usually you really feel like you're playing along with the song, unlike other ryhthm games where you just feel like you're hitting arbitrary buttons.
|Gah! AND I forgot to mention that the game doesn't care if you make extra hits, so if you want to lay down some extra beats on your own, go for it! Or, more likely, if you hit the drum too early or something, you won't be penalized. Yay! Drum drum drum!|
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"I'd buy it."
I'm a bit out of the whole pop culture scene, so it took my friends to point out to me that pretty much all the pop songs here are covers, not the originals. Good work as far as covers go, though; I mean, I'm a moron, and I couldn't tell the difference! Oh, wait...
Also worth mentioning that some of the songs cut out early--just fading out after a minute and a half or so. Drag. Then again, I probably wouldn't last for full song length on some of them. Just saying.
CorranFox tells me that in the arcade, the Taiko games have a HUGE taiko drum mounted on/in front of the cabinet, and big wooden drum sticks, and you just whomp on the thing. I wish they sold a controller like that. I mean, I'd shell out a hundred or so for a nice big wooden one, you know? (That's what she...nevermind.)
|Okay! I tried out the drum again, and didn't really have any hit detection problems. You just gotta smack it pretty good, and in the middle of each side. Yay!|| ||